It's not the UN Security Council that decides whether military action in Syria is right or wrong

Why do so many still suggest that Russia and China should determine our foreign policy?

The position of those who oppose military action against Syria is understandable as is the position of those who support it. What is unfathomable is the position of those who support or oppose intervention based on whether a UN Security Council resolution can be obtained.

That the US, Britain, France, China and Russia agree (or disagree) on an act does nothing to tell us whether that act is ethical, prudent or sensible. Yet politicians continue to surrender their independence of mind to this anachronistic and unrepresentative institution (Britain and France, with 60 million people each, are represented, while India, a country of 1.2 billion and the world's largest democracy, is not). In its statement on Syria, UKIP declared that "any intervention must carry with it a full mandate from the United Nations rather than a desire by western nations to meddle abroad." Labour has similarly suggested that "consideration by the Security Council" is an essential pre-condition for military action. To which the appropriate response is: why should the Stalinist bureaucrats of Russia and China determine our foreign policy? 

After arguing ten years ago with those who claimed the Iraq war would be justified if a second UN resolution could be secured (does anyone now believe they were right?), I had hoped that we now recognised the Security Council as the irrelevance that it is. But on the basis of today's evidence, the old delusions still persist. 

The UN Security Council meets regarding Syria on August 30, 2012 in New York. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.